The Defenders #2

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The Defenders #2

Post  Paul E. Schultz on Sat Jun 02, 2012 5:18 pm

Defenders #2
"Blood Ties"
By Paul E. Schultz (Flashbacks borrowed from Roy Thomas)

From the observation gallery above the surgery center, the five brightly-clad men watched in helpless awe at the events unfolding below them. Doctors and nurses alike milled with practiced efficiency, preparing the body of the young blond woman lying seemingly lifeless upon the table. An eerie yellow pallor filled the center. The five heroes, shrouded in the darkness of the observation seats, hung on every word. They were ordered by the doctors to remain silent, but Captain America, Bucky, Prince Namor, Human Torch and Toro were not accustomed to taking orders from just anyone. In this case, however, they were willing to make an exception.

"There is something wrong here, doctors," one of the doctors abruptly announced.

"What is it, Dr. Latham?" asked another.

"I've detected some sort of...foreign element in the girl's blood stream," said Dr. Latham. "I know it's impossible...but it keeps causing her blood type to change!"

"What? Then not even Type O will help! We need blood from a truly 'universal donor,' but there's no such--"

"Yes, there is!" Human torch called out, getting to his feet.

"Torch!" gasped Captain America. "What--?"

"I know what I'm doing, Cap!" assured Human Torch. "Don't you see? It's Baron Blood! His bite affected her somehow! "

Professor Horton's synthetic man leaped over the edge of the gallery, landing on the tiled floor below. "Doctors, there's no time for me to explain, but my blood is exactly what you're looking for. You've got to believe me!"

"What choice have we?" asked Dr. Latham. Turning to the head nurse, he barked, "Sister, prepare the patient for a massive blood transfusion!"


***

"Git 'im!"

"He ran this way!"

"I see 'im!"

Willie Deville ran as if the three thugs hot on his heels were devils themselves. Armed with cigarette lighters and Super Soakers loaded with kerosine as they were, the trio might just as well have been demons. Willie knew it was only a matter of time before his pursuers, all much younger than the aged, out-of-work CTA bus driver, would catch up with him. The two years he had spent living in the alleys and subway terminals of Chicago's lower west side were almost at an end. For a moment, he wondered if his ex-wife would identify his charred remains. Willie rounded the alley corner, crashing into a cluster of filth-ridden trash cans and boxes of moldy clothes. Rats scattered. Overhead, the full moon shown down with the cold indifference Willie had come to expect from his only nightly companion.

The three thugs were upon him, leering and laughing.

"We torch this sucker and it's one less bum on the street!" snarled one of them.

"Who's gonna miss you, scum?" laughed another.

Willie scrambled to get to his feet, terror burning in his belly.

"No!" he cried as his hand suddenly gripped something in the garbage. It felt like the handle of a baseball bat. Maybe he would have a chance after all! Summoning his last bit of strength, Willie swung the bat as he clambered to his feet.

Both Willie and his three tormentors froze at the sight of the shinny black blade of the broadsword he had suddenly pulled from the garbage. Moonlight seemed to kiss the steely black blade.

"What the hell?" gasped one of the punks.

Suddenly, the sword began to vibrate in Willie's hand, radiating a shadow from the blade that, in an instant, engulfed him. In the blink of an eye, the three young men watched as a black-helmed figure in chain mail stood where Willie once stood. Upon the Black tabbard upon his chest, a crimson dragon spread its wings.

"Who dares threaten the personage of the Black Knight?" demanded the armored figure.

Dumbstruck, the three young men stood stone still.

"Though your garb be strange to me," said the helmed man, "your intent is clear. If thee value thy lives, thee will flee before my faithful Ebony Blade says otherwise!"

"Hold it right there, buddy," called a voice from behind.

The Black Knight peered over his shoulder, his black-bladed broadsword still pointed at the three hoodlums. "Who dares?"

Taking it as their cue of opportunity, the three punks dropped their over-sized squirt guns and scattered into the night like cockroaches fleeing light.

"I dare," warned the police officer, Tazer gun drawn.

"A maiden fair doth give orders to the Black Knight?"

"Chicago police!" she warned. "Put the...sword down, mister!"

"My lady, I know not what strange object thee holdest so threateningly in thy delicate hands, but if it be some form of vile Mordred's magics--"

"Keep talking, King Arthur," warned the uniformed woman, "and you'll find out soon enough! Now, I said freeze!"

"King Arthur? My lady, I am but a servant of the Crown! I--"

With the squeeze of a finger, she sent the Tazer's stinger slithering through the air. Its electrical bite found its mark. Hair raising electrical current did the rest. The armored man collapsed to the filth-strewn alley floor, dropping his sword. In that instant, a shadow crept back over sword and holder and the unconscious body of Willie Deville lay on the ground. The sword hit the ground beside him.

"What...the...hell?" muttered Officer Parks.

***

"Well, doc? Will she--?"

"She'll live, young man. Thanks to you," said Dr. Latham. "Live to go down as receiving more blood than any patient in known medical history. It was a nearly total transfusion!"

"Ohhh...What...where..?" she groaned, disoriented from the ordeal. "I thought I heard someone. So dark...can't see...Is that you, Cap? Cap?"


***

"Cap?!" Jacqueline leaped to her feet, her head still spinning, her ears ringing from the wrenching sound of the explosion moments earlier.

In confusion, she looked around her, taking in the sprawling wreckage of prototype aircraft. It was a miracle she or any of the other had survived. The others? Good God, where were they? she wondered.

"Anytime tonight, Spitfire!" called Red Guardian soaring overhead in a jet stream of super-heated air.

Jacqueline watched as the Russian woman streaked towards the massive, winged giant.

"Dragon Man!" she gasped as it all came back to her. Michael Hayes and his so-called Defenders were in route to apprehend Dragon Man when everything exploded around her. "His breath! He must've brought the plane down with his fiery breath!"

About the fifteen-foot-tall, five ton winged behemoth, the other Defenders attempted to bring it down while Red Guardian and Nighthawk circled overhead. A black woman in a blue and white outfit wrestled with the roaring beast, holding its massive arms back as she struggled to keep it in a headlock.

"Claire?" Jacqueline wondered aloud. "Of course! She must be using Foster's growth formula!"

"Come on, D-Man!" called Claire. "Knock the wind out of this thing! He's stronger than he looks!"

As if on cue, Demolition Man charged forward, slamming his shoulder into the dragon's stomach. The beast roared and buckled over.

"X-51!" shouted Nighthawk. "Now!"

The machine man's hand began to shift and slither, forming a spiderweb-like membrane of steel and coils. The webbing sprung forth from his wrist, wrapping itself over the creature's massive head. Even from her distance, Jacqueline could feel the strange tingle of electricity emitted by the netting.

With a grown, the winged giant collapsed to the ground.

Jacqueline had only a moment to marvel at the scene before her attention was drawn to the sounds of groaning coming from a heap of nearby wreckage. She leaped forward, her swift motions trailed by a tail of warped light Namor had once described as, "The very air catching fire behind her!"

A blue armored glove extended from the wreckage, grasping for purchase.

"Defensor!" she called out, taking his hand.

"Sí, la Señora Farnsworth!" muttered Defensor. "Una mano si usted por favor?"

She helped the armored man to his feet.

"It would seem I have learned the limits of my brother's armor to absorb impacts," announced Defensor, half laughing at the very thought of still being alive.

"Of course!" gasped Jacqueline. "Your Vibranium armor must've absorbed the brunt of our crash landing! How else would we have survived?"

"Si! After Dragon Man's breath took out our engines, I had only seconds to act! Unfortunately, not all of us are able to fly! Now, come, we should join the others."

As the two stragglers made their way up to the unconscious giant, Red Star and Nighthawk landed nearby as well.

"Status report, X-51," said Nighthawk.

"The cybersinaptic harness is working perfectly," announced X-51.

"He's sleepin' like a baby," added Demolition Man, lifting one of the beast's heavy eyelids.

From her height of eighteen feet, Claire slowly began to shrink before Jacqueline's disbelieving eyes.

"I told you it was complicated," she told the blond Dane with a wink. "You can call me Temple."

"So, with no plane," said Demolition Man ponderously, "How the heck are we gonna get ol' big and ugly here back to the castle?"

"Temple," said Nighthawk in answer.

"Right," replied Claire Temple. Pulling off one of her white gloves, she laid it gently upon the beast's back.

A shutter ran through the giant and, a few heartbeats later, is began to deflate, shrinking, until it reached the size of a house cat. The cybernetic harness still held firm to its head, shrinking as well.

"The effect should last about an hour," said Claire, pulling her glove back on.

With the roar of an engine catching their attention, the Defenders turned as they were suddenly bathed in twin beams of light. The S-10 pickup came to a lurching hault, kicking up grass and dirt as it did.

Gordon Westfall leaped from the driver side door of the truck, double-barreled shotgun in his hand. His son followed close behind him.

"All right!" barked Westfall. "Who's gonna pay for the damage to my chicken coop? Not to mention what ya'all did to my field?"

Nighthawk put up a hand and the hostile farmer seemed to suddenly calm.

"Gordon Westfall," he spoke placidly. "I assure you I can compensate you on the damage to your property. But we will require the use of your vehicle in the meantime."

"Uh...okay..."

"Pa? You okay? How'd he know your name?""

"Shotgun!" called Demolition Man, bounding for the truck.

"Tell me, amigo," said Defensor, scooping up Billy. "Your mother, does she have a sister?"

"No," said Billy, confused.

"Don't let him fool you, child," said Red Guardian. "He would settle for your grandmother at this point."

Demolition Man let out a thunderous laugh, opening the truck's passenger side door. "Hey, kid, this is Indiana, right? Is there a Hardees around here?"

"You kiddin'?" asked Billy elatedly from atop Defensor's shoulders. The kids at school tomorrow were never going to believe him. "We got two in town."

Claire picked up the slumber miniaturized Dragon Man and shook her head, laughing.

As the others headed for the truck, Jacqueline took hold of Nighthawk's arm, stopping him.

"You have some explaining to do," she warned quietly, "Nosferatu."

***

Sheila Parks looked down at the grimy stranger slumbering noisily upon her couch. He smelled so bad she had had to open the nearby window, letting the sounds of the night creep in along with the fresh air. At least what passed for fresh air in downtown Chicago. She looked down at his tattered, expired driver's license. The difference between the weathered black man in the photo and the one sleeping on her couch was as different as the helmed man he had become in the alley an hour earlier. She looked over at the black-bladed sword leaning in the corner of her living room. It seemed to stare back.

"What the hell have you gotten yourself into, Daddy?"
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Paul E. Schultz

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Re: The Defenders #2

Post  Craig DeBoard on Tue Jun 05, 2012 5:34 am

YES!!!! Please tell me Dragon Man will join the team! That would be friggin awesome!
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Re: The Defenders #2

Post  Paul E. Schultz on Tue Jun 05, 2012 5:13 pm

I'm just gettin' warmed up, Craig.
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Re: The Defenders #2

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